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Curtains rise on virtual theatre experience this Vernon Winter Carnival

Complete with a local star-studded cast, new carnival event is one of a kind
Our HOME Town is set to debut Feb. 12, 2021, during the 61st annual Vernon Winter Carnival. (Sherpa Group Events Inc. - Contributed)

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept the curtain closed on live theatre performances for nearly a year, but a local production company is bringing the theatre to you, as part of the 61st annual Vernon Winter Carnival.

Sherpa Group Events producer and director Heather Sharpe said this brand-new event is a one-of-a-kind, never-been-done-before in the Okanagan or Western Canada.

The arts sector has been hardest hit by the pandemic due to ever-evolving, crowd-limiting, and ultimately crowd-cancelling, provincial health orders.

“I came up with this idea through my own challenges with trying to find and support arts and culture through this last year,” Sharpe said. “The arts is a very real part of what makes us human and adds quality of life. A lot of people are missing it.”

The music industry, she said, quickly adapted to online platforms, performing full shows via streaming platforms for paying audiences.

“But where is the theatre?” Sharpe asked.

“I know that a theatrical experience involves so much more than watching and listening. It’s the environment, the anticipation of the curtain opening, the buzz in the lobby, lights flickering, program in your hand — it’s very hard to duplicate that by watching a pre-recorded video recording.”

That’s why Our HOME Town will be performed live.

“We are making the most of available technology and creative techniques to bring you a unique theatrical experience — like a staged reading, but better,” Sharpe said.

The play, written by local Jason Armstrong of Beach Radio, is a light-hearted, family-friendly homage to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, only with a Vernon and Okanagan twist.

It wouldn’t be Our HOME Town without a star-studded home-town cast complete with Beach Radio hosts Brian Martin and Rebecca Barton, Brad Krauza of Gonzo Okanagan, Big Apple Productions’ Meline Schein and Craig Howard and Vernon Morning Star’s own and beloved star Roger Knox. To top it all off, Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming will make a special cameo.

The production, sponsored by Beach Radio, the Morning Star and Salt-Fowler Real Estate, will all take place over Zoom, Sharpe said.

“This allows the audience to come in and hear and see everything without necessarily being heard or seen,” she said. “They can hang out in their jammies with a glass of wine and be physically distanced while watching with their bubble. They can watch either on their laptop, or connect it to a TV screen.”

Casting was also done via virtual calls, Sharpe said, underscoring the importance of the actor’s ability to really “lift the words of the page.”

“While we aren’t able to meet in person at this time, Vernon’s Winter Carnival is still offering lots of activities and events that are safe,” Sharpe said. “We wanted to be sure that carnival had an art and culture component for the community that was unique and entertaining.”

Tickets are on sale now for $25 per device at starting Feb. 11-14 between 7-9 p.m.

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